According to Douglas M. Steiner, E-Z Stove Polish was manufactured in Chicago in 1895 by brothers William and Darwin Martin. The Martin & Martin company made shoe polish and stove polish and lasted until at least 1938. The most notable historical aspect of this company is not the polish they produced, or even the brothers who produced it, but the building in which it was produced, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, who also designed and built a number of other buildings for the Martin brothers and their friends, as well as the Martin & Martin company logo. The E-Z Polish Factory (built 1905) is the only factory building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and it still stands today.
According to Jack Lesniak, and Douglas M. Steiner, William E. Martin was born in New York state in 1863. He moved to Chicago in 1882. By 1884 Martin was a partner with Frank H. Gano in the Gano & Martin Common Sense Stove Polish Company in Chicago. In 1889 he formed Martin & Barton with his brother-in-law George F. Barton and manufactured stove polish. In 1895, Darwin Martin bought out Barton, and Barton moved to the Larkin soap company in Buffalo, N.Y. The Martin brothers established Martin & Martin and manufactured polish for stoves and shoes under the E-Z Polish brand.
According to Edgar Tafel, in 1902 William commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build him a home in Oak Park, and the resultant William E. Martin House was built in 1903. Upon viewing his brother’s home, Darwin Martin was significantly impressed to visit Wright’s Studio, and persuaded Wright to view his property in Buffalo, where he planned to build two houses.
Martin was instrumental in selecting Wright as the architect for the Larkin Administration Building, in downtown Buffalo, NY, Wright’s first major commercial project, in 1904. Martin was the secretary of the Larkin Soap Company and consequently Wright designed houses for other Larkin employees William R. Heath and Walter V. Davidson.
According to Douglas M. Steiner, “In 1902 Wright designed a home in Oak Park for William E. Martin (Site 061). This established a long line of projects for the Martin families. Other related structures included: Larkin Building, Buffalo (1903 – S.093); Darwin Martin, Buffalo (1904 – S.100); George and Delta (Martin) Barton, Buffalo (1903 – S.103) (Darwin Martin’s sister); William Heath, Buffalo (1904 – S.1904) (Larkin Attorney); Darwin Martin Gardener’s Cottage, Buffalo (1905 – S.090). Frank Lloyd Wright designed the E-Z Polish Factory (1905 – S.114) for William and Darwin Martin. Isabel Martin, Graycliff, Derby, NY (1927 – S.225-226).
According to Douglas M. Steiner, “Wright designed the E-Z Stove Polish Company’s Factory built in 1905. The E-Z Polish Factory is the only factory building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is located at 3005 West Carroll Avenue in Chicago. Frank Lloyd Wright’s initial design for the E-Z Polish Factory was a two story building with a daylight basement facing Fillmore Street. The building was of reinforced concrete faced with brick. Rows of large horizontal windows were broken by vertical brick piers projecting out from the exterior surface of the brick wall. These were capped by limestone or concrete that ran the full length of the building. The entrance was reached between two smaller rectangular sections of the building that were perpendicular to the main structure. These were reached only by a bridge from the main building. A large planting was in the center of the courtyard that lead to the entrance. Just past the planting was the entrance. The lower doors, the employee entrance lead to into the basement. On either side of the lower doors, were brick piers with large concrete vases. On either side of the employee entrance, stairs lead up to the visitor’s entrance on the main floor. To the outside of the entrance, on either side, light flooded the two stairways with tall vertical windows. There do not appear to be any photographic records of the original two-story building as Wright designed it.
“What was built appears to be a much simpler design. The elaborate entrance set back from the street was replaced by two simple doorways on Carroll Street, one near the east end, and a similar entrance near the west end. Where the front was set back from the sidewalk, it was brought forward in-line with other buildings on the block. One aspect that made this building unique was Wright’s use of reinforced concrete, a concept not widely utilized at the time.
Brendan Gill details William Martins struggle in working with Frank Lloyd Wright, who was also building Darwin Martin’s house and the Larkin Building at the same time as the E-Z Polish building. When the contractor Paul Mueller (Wright worked with him in Sullivan’s office) began excavating for the foundation, he did not have the final blueprints for the building. William Martin wrote to his brother of his frustration. With Wright buried in the Larkin and Darwin Martin projects, he may have lacked the time or interest to invest in the oversight of the construction of the E-Z Polish Building. And when you take into account the first design compared to what was actually built, it became a much lesser design. Eventually Wright and William Martin must have reconciled their relationship. because in 1909, Wright designed a Pergola for William E. Martin’s residence.”
According to Jack Lesniak, Darwin Martin died in 1935, and after William’s death on September 23,1938, the Martin & Martin Co.’s management was passed on to his son Everett.
According to Henry-Russell Hitchcock, E-Z Polish factory was at one point forgotten as a Wright design. In 1939, architectural historian Grant Carpenter Manson was writing his Harvard doctoral dissertation and followed a clue that the factory was located somewhere along the Galena division of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway. Manson rode back and forth on the line until he located the factory.
The building now serves as practice space for local bands and artists.